April 30, 2012

Music to my Ears: Summer Concerts

Whenever life gets stressful this time of year, I instantly imagine my summer respite hovering right around the corner. I mentioned here that I've been daydreaming about lazy days by the pool reading juicy books and it just cannot come soon enough.

Another part of summer life that I absolutely love other than roadtrips and reading is going to concerts! There's something so fun about listening to music you absolutely love while being surrounded by people who are in the same moment, too.

While we're on our roadtrip this summer we're hoping to snag a couple local shows, but we're also hoping to see some local shows too. I finally broke down and bought tickets today for what ended up being a better deal than I could have possibly imagined!

I'm sure by now you've heard the Alabama Shakes; they've been buzzing around the southern rock circuit and have been recognized by SPIN and PASTE magazines on a regular basis. They also are in this month's issue of my personal favorite, Garden & Gun. Long story short, the closest the Alabama Shakes are coming to us this year is to an outdoor concert near Richmond, VA which is a little under 3 hours away. For me, no distance is too far from seeing a band perform, especially when I love them as much as I love AS.

So when I logged on to order tickets, I realized that instead of buying tickets, I was actually buying season passes to a Friday music festival! I was paying $40 for access to 10 AMAZING bands (including Carolina Chocolate Drops--read about when we saw them in 2010 here)! So now that we have our season passes ordered, we just pay $5 at the door to see each individual show. That is completely worth it to me! It'll make for some fun Friday roadtrips down to VA during the first few weeks of the summer. This small payment is turning into a huge way to keep us occupied over the summer. I'm just hoping we can convince a few of our friends to join in on the fun, too!

Here are some videos of a few of the bands we're scheduled to see. Maybe you'll like them and find someone new? Or maybe you live near Richmond and will join in on the concert-going fun?

Alabama Shakes:

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears

Carolina Chocolate Drops



April 29, 2012

My Sunday Night Brilliant Idea.

If I had a tumblr, this would be a tumblr post, but I don't have a tumblr. 

I have an idea and I have no idea how to make it come to life, but I at least want to document it, before I forget/someone else "comes up with it."

There needs to be a What Not to Wear show for girls who don't want to transition into a sassy city chic, but for girls who want to keep their vintage lovin' ways, but simply need a makeover.

Like me.

So someone please come up with the show, the premise, the funds, and I will be your first client.

I want a makeover!

...still figuring it out.

If there's one thing I can't do, it's figuring things out. At least, I don't feel like I can. When I was younger, probably in high school, I tried really hard to know what I wanted to do with my life, but I never really planned it out. I definitely was not one of those girls who knew by what age she wanted to get married and then have children. Trust me, the whole concept was lunacy to me. I did, however, always know that I wanted to be a teacher or work with children in some capacity. So, I guess you could say I tried to figure it out.

It wasn't until I was mid-semester in my AP English course that I realized English was where it was at for me. I was good at it, I liked it, so it was pretty much a perfect fit. Fast forward 10 years and I have been teaching high school English for the last 5. It's been fun and an incredible learning process. Seriously. I have learned more about how societies and communities function, how people function, and how teenagers learn than I could have ever thought possible. It's been real.

One thing it hasn't been, though, is too much of a struggle. Sure, there have been some REALLY hard years with behavior issues, lack of administrative support with certain students, etc. Those years, however, weren't hard on me intellectually, though. At the end of the day, I still showed up the next day to teach. Now that I have switched schools, I have less of those hard days and more days where I am intellectually challenged by my students. It's pretty good right now, but how long will I do this? Is this what I want to do for the next 25 years?

What's next? That seems to be the burning question. Now that I've hit those 5 years of service, it seems like the only thing anyone can ask me about what I'm planning on doing next. No, I have not gotten my masters degree. The main reason is that I have NO CLUE as to what I want to study. I'm dutifully paying off my undergraduate student loans and am, unfortunately, not really eager to take on more debt any time soon. That's probably most of why I'm not too crazy about going back to school. I love the idea of going back to school, but not the reality.

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Honestly. I only ever wanted to be a teacher. Now I've meet that mark and I'm good at it. It seems crazy to just stick around status-quo, right? So what do I do next? I'm not interested in becoming an administrator, mostly because I understand how intensely frustrating that job that can be without the right funds or support from your superiors. I'm not eager to get another degree in English, because I already have a hard enough time finding other ways (than teaching) to use my B.A. degree.

Cory asked me a few days ago to really think about two things:
1) What I love to do
2) What I could do in the future that would make me happy

I am clueless. I like to do a lot of things, but I really don't know what I love to do.

One thing you need to know about me is that I'm a pretty even-keel bird. I don't get excited very much because I don't have much going on that is excitement worthy. There are a lot of things I look forward to, though. So does that mean that I'm officially transporting into an old fuddy-duddy? Say it isn't so!

What should a person do to find out what they love to do? How can I know what will make future Liz happy and full of passion and fire? 

To be honest, sometimes all that "passion and fire" can feel lame to me. I guess because I haven't felt that so-called contagious feeling in a long time, I've forgotten the mystery behind it. I've stopped wanting it or knowing where to find it.

But I want to find it. Desperately. So I'm going to start trying. I'm going to start doing things wholeheartedly for me. Like actually taking the minute and asking myself, Where do you want to go to dinner tonight? or What do you actually want to wear? I think those moments can transform into larger choices and decisions. Or at least I hope they will.

It's sort of sad living lackluster. Things have been rocky on my end over the last few weeks, just trying to figure it all--but more importantly--me out.

Now's the time for a confession. I love Tavi Gevinson a whole lot. There's something special about that girl; her blog, her online magazine is really amazing. She's like a younger Hello Giggles. Really. I recently saw her Ted Talks video from last month and as crazy as it sounds, it was like she was speaking straight to so many dilemmas I've faced throughout the last few years. I mean, this girl is 16 years old and is well on her way to figuring it out--and if she's not--she's trying really hard.

If any of what I'm saying resonates with you in any way, I encourage you to watch this video. It's less than 8 minutes long and profoundly refreshing. Also, if you know any teen girls, I think you should share it with them, too.

So off I go, into the land of unknown. I'm trying to figure myself and everything else out. I want to know more about myself, especially what I truly love. It's hard! I don't know how I'll find it, I just really, really hope I'll know it when I do.   

Yours in trying to figure it out,

Planning a Road Trip + I Need Your Help!

Every year Cory and I try to take about a week-long roadtrip before we meet up with my parents in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Three years ago we went through a tour of the south (Knoxville, Nashville, Savannah, Charleston). Two years ago we were getting married and treated our honeymoon to Jamaica as a pretty elaborate roadtrip. Last year, we were pretty tight on funds from buying our house, so we took our time driving down to Myrtle Beach, SC and stayed in Cory's parents condo before meeting up with my parents. This year we haven't had many major purchases (other than a new water heater--ugh!) and have been able to scrounge some money away, so we're hoping to hit the road again!

We've been talking a lot about where to go this year, and it seems like we're definitely heading to the mid-west. Cory's aunt lives in the Ozarks and the nearest full-scale town is Springfield, MO, which is perfect because I'm pretty much dying to visit the Red Velvet Shop. So we know we're headed in that direction, but what we don't know is where we're going to stay along the way! So, we have a few options and I welcome your travel/experience input!

Trip #1:
Route 1 includes is leaving Maryland and heading to Louisville, Kentucky for our first stop. We would definitely stay there at least one night, but probably two, so we have enough time to seek out the local flavor. After our two night stay in Louisville, we'd head to Cory's aunt's house for at least 2 days again, so we can check out Springfield and do some hiking around the mountains. Then we would finally make our way to either Denver or Boulder, CO. We aren't entirely sure which city we want to see more, but I definitely can't wait to get my eyes on those mountains! My only hesitation is that the last leg is the longest and usually we try to get those out of the way first. The other thing to consider is that this route is pretty much a straight shot, which might help with gas and lodging expenses. Hmm..

Trip #2:

This route has the same last two stops, but we would be going north near the Great Lakes and staying in Chicago for two nights instead of Louisville. I'm really intrigued by this version for a few reasons. The first is that I've never been to the windy city,  but have always been eager to go. The second is that I really enjoy having a variation of locations on my roadtrips. To me, as a person who hasn't been to any of these cities, there is a potential of all the cities from Trip #1 to resemble each other or to feel the same in some way. I know, for sure, Chicago could add a little spice. Since we'll be traveling on a tight budget, I am researching various hostels to stay and think we might be able to find more hostels in Chicago than in Louisville. However, this trip does add 100 miles to our trip, which is a lot of money considering how much we'll be paying for gas.

Trip #3:
This route is by far the most affordable of the three as it completely cuts out nearly 800 miles one way! I would love to see Denver or Boulder, but if it's not financially feasible, then I think the smart thing to do would be to add Asheville, NC to our trip as we're heading back into North Carolina at the end, anyway. I have heard so many good things about Asheville and have been very eager to go for over a year. Asheville has a cute hostel that I've had bookmarked for a long time called Sweet Peas Hostel. Have any of you ever been there? The nice thing about this trip is that we could take our time and stop in cities like Knoxville, Nashville, or Raleigh on our way back. We have a lot of friends who live in the Raleigh area, which also draws me towards this trip. I'm always eager to see the people who live by where we're visiting! This trip doesn't involve as much driving and gas money would be able to stretch a little further.

So this is where you come in to help us. Have you been to these cities? Have you traveled this road trip? Do you have any suggestions of "must see/do/eat" places? Which road trip sounds the best?

Thank you in advance!

April 27, 2012

Insta life

It's Friday! Today is the end of our second to last marking period, which means the true counting down can begin (only 24 more days of school... just sayin')! Schools are open for a half day so teachers can clean and grade. I busted my butt earlier this week in hopes of getting my grades finished early (which I did) so I could use this time to CLEAN! Man, my work space is a mess! It's hard not having a classroom this year--really hard. I've learned a lot about what you really need to teach, though. It's exciting thinking about how I'll decorate a classroom as soon as I have one. I've been ordering posters and writing down ideas like crazy. I ordered a few posters from Advice to Sink in Slowly that I posted about a few weeks ago--they finally arrived and they are adorable!

I'm looking forward to this weekend because I don't have much going on and I'm hoping that means a hike in the woods, a lot of yummy food and drinks, and some good quality time with that husband of mine. Of course, I'm also thinking about taking my camera out and doing some fun things with it, too.
I'm not going to lie, my new LG Spectrum phone has a 8mp camera and I'm sort of in love with it. When I'm dealing with in-the-moment photography, it's definitely my go-to and has eased a lot of shoulder pain from carrying my dSLR everywhere. I know everyone does these, but I sort of love looking/reading posts like this, so I wanted to share snapshots of my life through the last few weeks, too! 

I've been spending a lot of time in the car with Cory, reading and traveling to Virginia for various reasons (a random rainy Sunday trip to Sonic for a special treat or a friend's wedding on a sunny weekend). I've also been taking the time to make sure dinner is always something yummy. Maybe it's breakfast for dinner, a typical dinner meal, or take-out Greek. Either way, I just want it to be yummy since it's usually the last thing I eat every day. 

There's really no surprise that Instagram has quickly become my favorite app on my new phone. It's pretty and refreshing to see what other people share from their lives--so much inspiration and creativity--I really love it!

If you want to join in on the Instagram fun, you can find me under lizmatheny :)


April 26, 2012

My Summer Reading List

It seems like I have been slipping into a daydream so easily recently! You're probably familiar with the situation: overwhelmed with work, everything is loud and chaotic, people are stressed. It all makes for me to easily drift off into a daydream and I, of course, start thinking of the summer to come. Fully aware that we only have 25 days of school left, my patience and my students' patience is wearing thin, but we're trying to hang on for the sake of keeping each other smiling.

Today I couldn't help but think about all the books I want to tackle this summer for pleasure. I am not hiding away from the fact that I am going to be doing a LOT of school work this summer. There's pretty much no way around it as we transition away from our Maryland state curriculum and into the Common Core curriculum throughout the next year. Next year is absolutely going to be a transition year, but it should be no surprise to you, that I am eager to get a leg up on the process and start working now, so it's not so much of a burden in the future. That's how I am--I plan ahead and work ahead all the time.

So, realizing that summer is going to be tricky to balance work and rest, I started making a list of books I definitely want to read over the summer. It includes books I've already read, but want to re-read, and books that are recent publications that have been sitting on my bookshelf for far too long without my attention.

I really don't get into any kind of romance, paranormal reading, but I do love me some good, classic Americana reading. I think each of these books can fit into that category except for A Game of Thrones. It truly isn't something I would normally pick up, but due to the hype of the TV show and me always wanting to read the book first, I figured why not?

I've seen a lot of bloggers posting about their summer reading lists recently like Mandy over at Miss Indie and I am in LOVE with the new Literate & Stylish series from Dani Hampton on Sometimes Sweet.

What are you reading these days? Have you been making a to-read pile/list?

If you're interested in other posts about books go here or if you want to keep tabs on what I'm currently reading, go here


April 22, 2012

It's Been a While...

On the day of my last post, April 11, a student at my school passed away as a result of a traumatic and freak head injury. 

As you know, I taught seniors last semester and really fell in love with them. They are a dynamic group, but worked hard, learned how to write, and were good company for a semester. What I admired most about this particular group was the closeness amongst them. I never had any issues with bullying, teasing, or inappropriate comments in class because they all got along like a big family. It sure makes teaching easy when your students care for one another. 

So when the student was injured in an accident that involved two of his best friends (two of my former students), I knew this was going to be an immensely difficult situation for the school, their group of friends, but also those two boys.

And it has been. I have been praying a lot throughout the last 13 days. I have been praying for my former principal, who is the father of the student who passed. I have been praying for the community. I have been praying for my students and school. And above all, I have been praying for those friends. Those friends who saw a tragedy unfold before their young eyes.

School hasn't been the same. I teach the students' girlfriend during 8th mod, and as a class, had to prepare the remaining students in that class what to expect or what to do for when she would return to school. The students' favorite color was orange; there has been a lot of orange in the hallways. There are makeshift memorials donning the hallways. There are funny memories being told over and over again, because it's the only thing that makes sense and the only thing that makes it all feel better.

When I went to school to be a high school English teacher, I knew I wanted to do more than talk about books and grammar. I wanted to be the person that made school bearable for kids. I wanted to be the one that helped them see the best in themselves. What I didn't know is how much empathy and sadness I would feel when losing a student with so much life. I also didn't know how I would/will escape the guilt of wanting to do more for his friends to help them through the day-to-day. 

It's been hard. I have learned a lot about teaching and about teenagers through the last 13 days. There is no easy way to move on from this, other than continuing to try. 

I'll be honest, blogging hasn't been my priority because school has been front and center for me. I do feel, however, that this weekend rejuvenated my concentration and my spirit. I think I'm ready to have a high spirit and lift my kids up to where they need to be. 

But I know it's not over yet. We have 29 days of school left and then graduation, where there will be an empty seat with his name on it. There will be memories that will consume our minds of a life taken too soon when we least expect it. 

I guess, what I want you readers to know, is that teaching is more than just teaching. It's about helping young people learn what it's like to be a person. It's about helping young people recognize how to feel and what to think during times like this. It's about helping them realize that everything they're thinking and feeling is entirely normal and okay. 

I'll be back to blogging this week. I just needed a break for a while.

April 11, 2012

Home Maintenance

Cory and I had an issue with our newly installed light fixtures over spring break and we decided to remedy the situation ourselves (dang 'ol slanted ceilings). Now, I do not encourage you to do this, but to actually do the research that I was too lazy to do on my own. 

Problem: Part of fixture needs to secured at the ceiling but the mechanism is about an inch too short.

Soluation: Hot Glue (we had already ruled out super glue). 

What it looks like: 

And now those metal rings that affix to the ceiling are up there--hopefully for good!

What was most impressive was Cory's willingness to go along with this crazy idea I had instead of drilling the metal piece into the ceiling. I have no idea what we're in for, but we did it!

Ahh... new homeowner-ship. It's the best. :)

Have you ever done anything crazy like this? My piece-of-mind and I would love to hear about it in the comments!

April 10, 2012

Smash* Books for Target

If there's one thing I love, it's the magical vortex that is every Target store I've ever been to. Are you with me? I can say, "I'll be back in 15 minutes!" and the next thing I know it's been 55 minutes. I have no idea what they do or how they do it--but it works. Sometimes after work, especially after a hard day at work, I'll take myself on a little stroll through our local Target just to check things out. I don't usually buy much or anything at all--which is good because I'm one heck of an impulse shopper (which I'm *crosses fingers* hopefully growing out of). 

Last week, during the craziness, I needed to pick up a few odds and ends for spring break, so I just took myself on a little Target walk. I noticed a few new items in their scrapbooking aisle from the Smash* collection from K & C Company. Usually the scrapbooking items at Target don't match my aesthetic, but the Smash* items were so lovely and fun that I instantly fell in love!

Fast forward to this Saturday at my uncle's house, where we celebrate Easter. My aunt put together handmade Easter baskets for each of my cousins (I have 6 cousins under the age of 13) and I noticed that the eldest girl, Kiersten (13 years old), got a Smash* book in her basket! Jealous! Since Kiersten didn't really understand what it was all about, I explained that Smash* functions as a fun collaboration between art journaling and scrapbooking. She was hooked! It's so good to see future crafters in my own family ;).

Well, after thinking about that beloved Smash* book for a few days, I finally took myself on a trip to Target today and picked one up for myself!

Right now, Smash* books are only 12.99 at Target (which isn't bad because I've also seen them at other stores for $15+). There are 4 options for books--4 regular sized themed books (Pretty--pink; Doodle--red; Adventure--black; and Retro--blue), and then a smaller option that comes in one theme, but I think is only $7.99 and the perfect size for your purse. Each Smash* book comes with a felt-tip black pen perfect for journaling on those pretty pages, and on the opposite side of the pen, a glue stick for sticking in those memories. Now, don't be like me and start winding up your glue stick without realizing it--forcing it inside the cap of the pen. aye aye aye.

I ended up picking up the Doodle version (red), because I liked the graphics, colors, and designs of the scrap pages better. While I was there, I also gave into temptation and bought a pack of big glitter foam stickers. I just couldn't resist the typography and colors of glitter! I could, however, resist all the other ancillary items that the Smash* Collection offers, for now at least. I have a pretty big collection of washi tape from Christmas that needs to be used and a plethora of other odds and ends around the house. Plus, the only item I truly had my eye on was that date stamp.

I came right home and made it my own. I'm pretty excited over the prospects of this thing--as I've always wanted to journal on a more regular basis, but am so easily overwhelmed by the entire process.

Above all else, I'm excited about using this book as a way to document my spring and summer! We're truly on the verge of summer around here (it's really the only thing I can think about anymore), so I'm thinking this will be a lot of fun!

How do you preserve your memories? 


April 9, 2012

A Bacon Flowchart To Jumpstart Your Week!

Brought to you via Bookoisseur (one of my new fav blogs!) via ScienceLoveLSD

Personally, I think that poster is the perfect way to start a Monday.

Make it a good one :)

April 8, 2012

Life from Instagram... Weekly Review!

Holy moly. This week has been CRAZY. I cannot even believe how much has been accomplished in the last 7 days. I need to do a little review, because I don't want to loose track of it all!

First, Cory and I are attending the same training: Critical Friends. Throughout this training we are learning various styles and protocols to use to facilitate useful and productive professional conversations. It may sound a little silly and you may be asking yourself, "if you're a professional aren't all conversations productive?" My long-story-short answer is: they are productive to a point. This training focuses specifically on how to get to the nuts and bolts of any conversation or topic regarding student achievement and proactive teaching. It's not as easy as it sounds because teaching is a deeply emotional and personal profession, so we are often guarded when talking about "our kids." Anyway--so Monday was sort of cool because I enjoyed the training, but also got to be with Cory all day!

We left training and headed straight to Verizon to take them up on a buy-one-get-one deal. Our cell phone contract was going to be up in May and we had already passed our eligibility date for a new plan/phone. Long story short, we both walked away with shiny LG Spectrum phones for pretty cheap! Hooray!

 (my first Instagram photo... ever ;))

Cory and I had been pretty determined to see The Hunger Games, but for one reason or another, we just hadn't gotten to it yet. When we realized we would be out of Verizon before 4:30, we decided to catch the 4:35 showing and had the best time because we knew we would be off work on Tuesday for Maryland's primary election! Winning! I'm not sure if I'm going to blog my thoughts regarding The Hunger Games movie for the sheer fact that so much has already been said about it. I do think, however, I have a different perspective in mind that isn't floating around the blogosphere, so maybe I'll do it. Who knows. 

All day Tuesday Cory and I did housework and took care of a lot of the small day-to-day errands. I took a break mid-afternoon and took myself out on a little voting-by-myself date. I went to my local voting place, placed my ballot for my selected local officials and then took myself out for fro-yo from Yogi Castle. Oh yeah--and Instagram became available to all Android users--awesome! Needless to say, I've been pretty busy with it ever since (follow me! LizMatheny is my username :))!

We finally went to work on Wednesday and I had a good time wrapping up Animal Farm and Fallen Angels with my students before break. Now I just have 60 research papers to grade... awesome. Anyway. I'm so happy to have the break right now. Without snow days I am so behind on my every-day school work. I usually take those days to catch up with grading and contacting parents and so forth--but alas, we only have 38 more days of school this year. I think I can make it ;). 

I spent Thursday doing two things: hanging light fixtures with Cory in the morning and hanging out with my friend Melissa in the afternoon. Both things were actually a lot of fun and I felt fulfilled when I went to sleep at night. It's amazing how completing projects around the home and hanging out with good friends can provide you with the same sense of accomplishment, right? I guess it's all part of growing up!

Cory and I took our time waking up Friday morning and decided it was the perfect day to be productive. I finished my Steve Martin book I was reading and he put in a few hours at his laptop doing work. I had to decide which book I was going to pick up next--so I decided on the middle one below and it has pretty much rocked my world ever since, believe it or not!

Then we decided it was a good decision to  head to Columbia to pick out a snazzy new suit! He's the officiant in a wedding this weekend and I wanted him to look his absolute best! I mean--wedding pictures don't exactly disappear after a few weeks! So, we headed to Columbia because I knew we would have lots of options. Of course, Cory found a perfect suit from Tommy Hilfiger (50% off! yay!) from Macy's.. which means we could've just stayed in Frederick! ha! I took the opportunity to hit up Forever 21 and buy a few new accessories and a springy travel bag. I don't have a good weekender bag and have been needing one desperately; so, I picked up the teal striped bag below. The rest of the day was spent hanging out and just loving on each other. We have been needing some quality time, so we watched movies and hung out the rest of the night. It was sublime. :) 

I received some new findings in the mail and decided to try them out with crochet beads that I ordered from AllEarzJewelry. I love the concept, but not the end result. I need to work with my local jewelry maker extraordinaire and get a little help! (ahem... Chrissy...) :)

 That brings us to this weekend which was full of Easter craziness. Big family meals, early morning sunrise services on the Antietam National Battlefield, lots of egg hunts for the littles, jelly beans for me, and quality time with families I love so much. We were pretty fortunate to have clear skies in our area, albeit a little chilly outdoors. We took advantage and played outside as much as we possibly could to make sure those kids would have all the sugar out of their system before they got home. Sometime it's just nice to pretend to be a kid again, right? 

 So that's a look at my life throughout this past week. We usually aren't so busy, but this is one for the books. I had such a good week spending time with Cory and catching up on all the things we should be doing all the time--spending quality time in our house and with our families.

What has your life been like? Are you new to Instagram, too? If you've been posting your pics, put a link in the comments! I'm getting used to the app--so if you have any handy resources, please let me know! I want to learn more! :)

Have a great week, everyone!